PM using Assertive Communication

Respectful and Assertive Communication to Tenants and Owners

There are some skills that can be learnt in order to communicate respectfully and assertively. At some point in life, we feel the need to tell another person what our thoughts, opinions, discourse or what our needs actually are. In order to keep this relationship intact, our assertiveness will need to be used. Assertiveness is the ability to honestly express your thoughts, opinions, feelings and ideas in a respectful way to another person.

For some people, their thought patterns are that we should avoid conflict or surrender to another person’s ideas because it is the polite, appropriate or even correct thing to do. However, assertive communication can help avoid frustration, resentment, or feelings of being uncomfortable in the presence of that person. This can have detrimental long term effects on trust between parties, cooperation as well as on life because there is no clear way to communicate thoughts, opinions or ideas clearly to the owner or tenant that may need to hear them.

For others, being assertive is seen as also being aggressive. This is not true. Aggressiveness is where a person behaves in an actively hostile fashion. In contrast, assertiveness is where a person behaves in a confident, self-assured positive and constructive way.

To be skilled in assertive communication, three key components should always be used;

  1. Empathy,
  2. A statement of the problem,
  3. A statement of what you want to see in the other person.

Empathic communication is expressing to the other person your understanding of their feelings. This can show the other person that you are reaching out rather than picking a fight with them.
An example of this is;

“I can imagine getting laid off is stressful, especially during Christmas, I appreciate the fact that you were up front about it and gave me a heads up.”

A statement of the problem is where you can clearly explain your difficulty or disappointment with the situation and says why you need something to change.

For example;

…Will you be getting a new job soon? Can you help from family and friends? How do you think you will be able to pay the rent? Rent must always be paid in advance. The owner has bills too. Raising your voice and telling me I have no heart only creates tension and doesn’t benefit anyone. Have you considered asking a family member or friend to move in with you and share the bills? You need to apply yourself and apply for new jobs ASAP.

In order to be effective in our assertiveness, our body language helps. Look the person in the eye, stand or sit tall, uncross your arms and have a friendly but serious facial expression.

In a conversation with the person try to: actively use some of the following behaviours:

Speak politely, use their name and try to be smooth and calm when talking. If you panic it can be seen as weak and tenants might take advantage of that. Alternatively, if you panic tenant might also panic.

  • Focus on the facts, not the emotional component or your personal judgments. For example, “When you use the pool and BBQ area; you often leave bottles on the ground, this is a health and safety issue.” This is more respectful and clear when compared to, “You always make a bloody mess!”.
  • Use “I” statements and focus on the problem behaviour that you are experiencing, not their personal appearance. For example, “I would like to tell you something today, without disruption”. This is more helpful than, “You are always interrupting me!”.
  • When explaining your thoughts, take full ownership of them. For example, “You make me so frustrated” can be rephrased, “I often feel frustrated when you ask about every item in the monthly statement when the description is very detailed and distinct”.
  • Aim to understand the other person’s point of view. It is just as important that you listen to them as they listen to you. (Seek to first understand before being understood.)
  • Before advocating your point of view, allow them time to speak it without interruption.
  • Once you have heard their point of view, respect it. This does not mean you have to agree with it.
  • If you can, find common ground, “Let’s meet in the middle.” as it will be much easier to come to a solution that you are both happy with. This takes careful listening but open questions around their interests, values and needs can help. This is also an effective negotiation strategy.
  • Be honest. If you can’t achieve something by their deadline, say so.
  • Know a hopeless cause when you see it. Don’t accept tasks that are beyond your capability.
  • Always promise less and deliver more; then owners and tenants will be happier that their expectations are met.
  • Communicate clearly. If you are making a direct request, don’t invite a question where the person can say “no”. It is more useful to say, “Would you mind…?” rather than, “Will you…?”.
  • Do not speak behind someone’s back, say it to their face. Always be polite. “Great people talk about ideas. Average people talk about things. Small people talk about other people.”
  • Thank the owner for giving you some time to speak, hearing you and giving you their opinion on the matter.

When seeing a person again after an assertive but respectful conversation, it is important to remember that a healthy relationship (personal or professional) is one that evolves, and is flexible and able to adapt to changing needs. Try to not to go over the same conversation again and again, but find new common ground with them. Talk to them about their interests and hobbies to create rapport, a different kind relationship, one that is based on clear communication and respect.


Carol Price, (1996) Assertive Communication Skills for Professionals

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, 1988 Stephen R. Covey

Wisconsin DHFS Caregiver Project – Prevent – Protect – Promote CVI Tipsheet

Ashton, J. (2004) Taking Care of Yourself and Your Family. A Resource Book for Good Mental Health.

5 Steps to Better Relationships Using Assertive Communication

How to Train Your Tenants to Pay Rent on Time

Some tenants proactively pay rent before the rent is even due, while others will never pay unless reminded or chased. Perhaps the worse type are those that say “oh I forgot, I’ll transfer you the money right away” and eventually get around to doing it next week. Whether you are a property manager or self-managing; chasing tenants when they are in arrears isn’t a pleasant task. It’s like begging for money, and you’re not a beggar and shouldn’t have to beg for money right? Tenants should pay you rent if they enjoy and want to continue living at the property right?

While most tenants understand this concept, however, there are still countless tenants that are new to the rental market (fresh out from home or international students new to renting), moreover with an abundance of new apartments being built constantly; some tenants feel you should be grateful they have decided to rent your place, and you should be thanking them for choosing to live here.

Let’s face it, having tenants in arrears adds extra needless workload (text messages, calls, door knocks) to your daily routine; not to mention they are stressful. If you don’t want to lose sleep over it best to try to change your tenant’s behaviour for the long term.

In order to change a tenant’s behaviour, you must first think like a tenant. When they pay for a pizza they get to eat a pizza right away. When it comes to renting some have this mindset:

I already paid for this two weeks ago, why do I have to pay again? I don’t see any immediate reward, why should I do this when the only person that benefits is the greedy landlord. I better put it off as long as I can maybe the landlord will forget and I won’t have to pay if they don’t ask…

Paying rent gets associated with something very painful and negative. Their hard earned money just evaporates before their eyes with no perceivable benefit.
One thing that Property360 has done well is incorporat this element of tenant psychology in the rental receipt design, unlike conventional rental receipts that just state the bare minimum, i.e. the period the rent is being paid for, Property360 receipts displays in addition to the period:
Was Paid to: and Now Paid to:

Property360 Rental Receipt Sample

Was Paid To date means if they hadn’t paid their rent then that’s the date they are allowed to stay in the property.

Now Paid To shows what their money has done for them, now that they have paid this rent, they can rent up to this date. This shows them their money is actually doing something.

How many times have you been asked by a tenant looking at a receipt, confused, scratching their head, “So when is the next time I have to pay?” This will no longer be the case, Property360 receipt technology and design makes it clear, with Now Paid To date in bold and underlined text along with the day of the week clearly visible, it can’t get any clearer than that. This also acts as a reminder so the tenant knows exactly when they should pay rent next time.

The second aspect of changing your tenant’s behaviour is building a positive association with paying rent. Paying rent can be a very negative experience for your tenants, you can do small changes to turn this around:

  • If possible, make it automatic, ask if they can set up scheduled repeated payments online. This removes the experience of paying rent for them (out if sight out of mind.)
  • Smile at tenants when they pay you rent in person, ask them how they are going. It doesn’t cost anything to smile, be friendly and polite even if they are few days late.
  • Don’t raise anything negative with the tenant such as complaints when the tenant is paying you rent proactively, doing so will make the paying rent experience worse as they will associate it with something harsh and negative. If the tenant is in breach for something raise it with them some other time.
  • Consider buying a bucket of non-perishable (wrapped) lollies (candy), and giving tenants a lolly when they pay rent on time or a lolly regardless if they pay on time or not along with their receipt. This is also known as Pavlovian conditioning (aka classical conditioning) where the subject (the tenant) undergoes associative learning linking certain events, or stimuli together in the process of conditioning. When they eat the candy the sugar will automatically have a chemical reaction in their brain and this helps build a positive association with paying rent over time. It doesn’t cost much, maybe $4 to $8 dollars for a bucket and it will last you for months, a very small investment to keeping tenants happy and out of arrears.
    • Make sure the lollies are out of reach and not something they can take willy-nilly like at a restaurant. But instead, it should be something you give to them as a reward and gesture of you being grateful they are being a good tenant and a token of continued mutual partnership.
    • Don’t eat through the bucket of candy yourself in a day… you will get diabetes.
  • If you don’t see any future for the tenant and you don’t plan on renewing their lease, and they are not getting with the program, consider making the consequences and reprehensions known.

By following these tips and using Property360’s rental receipt technology you should be able to dramatically decrease rental arrears at the same time engage tenants to proactively pay rent on time. Good Luck!



S.L Tan, 2017 – “Oversupply of dwellings for Brisbane in next two years: SQM Research” – Financial Review

Crash Course Psychology – Ivan Pavlov – How to Train a Brain